Combat rising fire insurance by applying the team approach to facility design
A CLIENT’S VICTORY IN THE BATTLE AGAINST RISING INSURANCE
A major meat processor with multiple sites whose insurance premiums have more than doubled over the past two years is planning a new facility. It is a Greenfield factory with a floor area of approximately 15,000m2 and continuous conveyors running throughout.
The client decided to adopt the proactive team approach to facility design they had seen Wiley advocate at its recent Wiley Advice Forum.
The owner invited the insurance broker and insurer to actively participate in the design process with the Wiley design team to achieve an insurable and affordable facility.
Requirements vary greatly between insurers and individual cases. In this instance, the requirements stated:
- Sprinklers are not required; passive fire protection (fire wall) is considered more reliable than active fire suppression (sprinklers).
- The factory is to be divided into two compartments to limit the maximum foreseeable loss. Fire wall in accordance with the Building Code of Australia (to the underside of the roof sheeting) is considered insufficient as the fire might spread over the wall. Fire wall is required to continue through the roof sheeting by one metre and past the walls of the building by one metre.
- Fire walls in accordance with the Building Code of Australia are acceptable for fire separating battery charge rooms, carton stores and electrical rooms. Plant room is to be separate from the main factory with fire wall and no openings facing the factory.
- All fire walls must be able to remain standing if either side of the wall is destroyed by fire. Steel roof members spanning from a tilt-up wall are considered unacceptable.
- Expanded polystyrene (EPS) panel is not to be used in more than 20 per cent of the facility. (On this basis, polyisocyanurate (PIR) was selected instead of EPS as it is suitable for process areas, freezers and chillers and has better fire performance than EPS.)
- Carbon dioxide suppression is to be used for electrical switchboards over 400 amps.
One of the main design challenges was providing effective compartmentation while allowing continuous conveyors throughout the facility.
The accepted solution was to provide a sprinkler-protected conveyor tunnel with permanent openings for the conveyors. The openings required a four-metre separation distance but no fire doors or breaks in the conveyors.
For this client, the collaborative approach resulted in four important outcomes:
- A solid understanding of all parties’ objectives
- Cost-effective fire solutions acceptable to the insurer
- A clear picture of the facility to be eventually insured for the insurer and the broker
- A user-friendly facility design tailored to the needs of both the insurer and the client.